Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Well That is Strange

I have just been looking back at some of the older Posts here and found this one:

Fizz Fridays

The post talks about why the promotion caught my eye, but does not talk about where I spotted it.

It is a little strange now, because at the time it was an unfamiliar location that I had only been to once before. Now it is somewhere I pass at least twice a week and is so familiar as to be common place. We visited this pub in August 2013, little knowing that 18 months later we would have moved to the next village; at the time we were not even planning on moving.

It is strange how time can change ones perspective of a place and the unfamiliar can become the opposite.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Harvest 2015 Part 2

There has been quite a lot of activity in the fields round us over the past couple of days,  including some night harvesting. Given the less than seasonal weather we seem to be caught up in, I can only suppose that the farmers are using every spare moment to being the harvest in on a dry day.

We have observed some interesting differences in how straw is baled and I am sure there is some logic behind that. The choice seems to be between the classic cuboid, tied with twine, and the large roll bound with industrial strength clingfilm. But why the difference? I can see I am going to have to do some research.

There are still lots of fields around us that have not been harvested yet. Most of these seem to be wheat crops, so it will be interesting to see when they are harvested. The grain looks a good golden colour, but I am sure there is more to when to harvest than colour. Watch this space for the 'when'

Monday, 10 August 2015

Mucking about on the river

Yesterday a small group of us ventures out onto the River Thames near where we live.

This was a bit of a trip down memory lane as we have inflatable kayaks that we have not used for about two years, so there was a certain amout of guessing when it came to putting them together,  including some confusion caused by having the pump in deflating mode when trying to pump it up. But we ended up with two well inflated, solid looking kayaks.

After all that effort we decided not to rush onto the water, so had our picnic lunch. This was good fare and did not seem to be too inviting for the local wasp population, which was a bonus.

After packing away the picnic and any other extra kit into the car, we finally took to the water. The threatened heavy cloud was no where in sight, so we were very fortunate to have almost wall to wall sunshine for the whole afternoon. There was a gentle breeze which helped us paddle against the flow of the river,  although we did have to avoid too many anglers for my liking, their rods are a silly length and they were only catching things that would gave been small for whitebait.

After about an hour of reasonably easy paddling, we found the mouth of the River Thame. There was some discussion about whether to go up or have a swim first (not being a great one for swimming, my vote was for going up the Thame). As there was no obvious way of getting back out after a swim, we went decided to head up the Thame.

The Thame is a very narrow and shallow river and at this time of the year is fairly overgrown, but it was good fun navigating up, via the odd bank of reeds and nettles (less fun). We managed to get all the way up to, the misnamed, Dorchester on Thames and then turned round to head back to our starting point.

The paddle back on both rivers was a little easier as we were going with the flow, but it soon became apparent that we were all out of practice and our arms were beginning to suffer from all the unfamiliar exercise. Part way back we did stop for a swim, although I decided that getting cold and wet at that stage of the day was not for me, so looked after the boats.

We headed off again and, after what seemed like an age, spotted our starting point and with a certain degree of relief, our paddle came to an end.

It was hard work, particularly towards the end, but it was a good day and I am sure that in a couple of days my arms will stop hurting!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Harvest 2015

In case you were not aware, this week sees the official start of Harvest 2015. This is the six weeks during which most of the UK's harvest is gathered. Round us the harvest actually started a couple of weeks ago, and there was then a sudden surge of Oil Seed Rape being harvested last week.

As with many things, Harvest is something new for us following our move to the country. We were, of course, aware of it as something that happened, but now we see it as a part of the life going on around us. It is a wonderful thing to see at close quarters. The machinery involved can be quite modest or huge and slightly overwhelming in its size. And the sudden change in the our surroundings from beautiful golden swathes to dark rich earth is staggering.

Something I had not appreciated is that some fields appear to have more than one crop planted, and a common mix seems to be Oil Seed Rape and Wheat. To me this seems to be an odd combination, but clearly it works. What this means from a scenic point of view is that there are a number of fields that are currently both golden and dark.

I am looking forward to watching the progress of Harvest 2015 round us over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Bristol to South Oxfordshire Day 4

After our slightly hilly day we decided it would be a good idea to have an early night,  so turned in at about 9.30. I slept very well and rose to sample the breakfast. There was a good Continental breakfast with meats and cheese, plus toast, crossant, jams etc. I opted for pancakes, maple syrup and berries.

We set off in warm sunshine,  but unfortunately the route meant we had to start on a very busy A road, which was no fun. We were soon on quiter country roads again and then joined a Byway. Now this was interesting. It started out as a reasonable surface and width,  but before long we were battling nettles and a narrow path, not a good combination with shorts on! We soon found our way back to a road and continued at a happier pace.

The route took us up into The Chilterns and then headed for The Ridgeway on a combination of quite roads and Byways,  happily without the addition of nettles.

We soon spotted Dicot Power Station,  so knew we were heading in the right direction and were nearing the end of our trip. Before long we were back in Didcot and heading back up the cycle path towards home. It had been a good few days and we were incredibly lucky with the weather, particularly after a dreadful July. We covered about 120 miles over the 4 days (well 3 really as we started on Thursday afternoon and finished soon after 1pm on Sunday) most of which was off road on tow paths.

Cycling is a lovely way to see the country, particularly if the weather is kind.

Our cats were very pleased to see us home, although they had been well looked after while we were away. Mustard has decided to make sure she is as close to us as possible tonight.

Bristol to South Oxfordshire Day 3

Our overnight stay with Margot was at a thatched cottage in Manningford Abbots. She had recommended that we had supper at a pub, The Seven Stars, about two miles away, happily this was slightly uphill, so down hill to get back. The meal was excellent and the ride back really quite exhilarating; cycling on smooth country roads in the dark with just our front lights to show us the way.

After a reasonable night's sleep, we were met by a great breakfast with many of the ingredients homemade or local.

The forecast for the day was not perfect, with a 20% chance of rain, so it was with a certain amount of concern that we set off. Our route was mostly along quite roads, rather than the tow paths we had been on. But these were good surfaces and although there were quite a few hills, there was nothing too strenuous. Best of all the rain never came.

We stopped off at Crofton Beam Engines for a cup of tea and cake, and then a tour of the engines to see how they used to pump water around the canal; indeed, on some weekends they still do.

The on for a light lunch and our night stop. The final bit of the rout to Newbury was back on tow paths, but after the smooth surface of the roads we were not sure which was better, a flat but very bumpy ride, or a good surface over hills. I opted for the latter, but I think I was in the minority.

Our overnight stay was at The Elephant at The Market in Newbury. It is a newly refurbished venue and although it is well appointed, it is a little expensive for what it offers.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Bristol to South Oxfordshire - Day 2 - Wall to wall sunshine (and a bumpy track)

This morning we awoke at our wonderful overnight stay (Widbrook Barns - to bright sunshine and an amazing breakfast. The Barns are run by a couple, Dick and Jane, who have themed each room around a children's book of the 1930s to 1950s. We were staying in 'Swallows and Amazons' and our fellow travellers were in 'The Secret Seven'. The rooms were extremely well equipped, with lovely ensuite shower rooms. Well worth a visit if you happen to be near Bradford on Avon.

After our extremely good breakfast, we set off to join our route again. The first half of the day was along the tow path of the canal, and I have to say I was very glad my bike has seat post suspension; the surface was good, but very rough. It was a good ride, and not too busy along the path. The highlight of the morning being the flight of locks at Caen Hill.

Soon after riding up the hill we headed into Devizes for lunch. I have to say that what I saw of it did not impress me; it had a branch of pretty much any Bank you can think of, but other than that, I am not sure it has much going for it. 

After lunch we continued on the tow path for a while, before heading off onto quiet country roads with wonderful views across fields to The White Horse. We wound our way along at a leisurely pace until we turned off the route and headed for our B&B for the night. 

We were met by Margo, and some very bouncy dogs, and immediately offered tea in the garden. This was wonderful, just sitting in the sun enjoying a good cup of tea and home made cake. Then time for a rest before heading out for supper. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Bristol to South Oxfordshire - Day 1

Today four of us set out on our journey from Bristol to South Oxfordshire. In fact, on a round trip, as we started from South Oxfordshire' catching the train from Didcot to Bristol Temple Meads. I should add at this point that the return journey is expected to take almost four days.

Day 1 has gone well. We arrived at Bristol as planned and it was really easy to pick up the cycle track that was going to take us to Bath. This part of the route is on a disused railway. It has a good surface and was reasonably flat, so we made good time. 

When we arrived in Bath we were pleasantly surprised to find that the signs for our route were very clear and, as luck would have it, the route took us past a real good bakery, which served a very acceptable Cream Tea. We felt this would be perfect preparation for the hill we were going to have to climb out of Bath. 

Suitably fortified, we set off again following the signs for National Cycle Route 4 and soon found ourselves climbing up a hill. No sooner had we started up the hill than we were directed to turn off. This was the canal path we were to take, so the climb out of Bath was 'something and nothing'.

The rest of the day was very pleasant, cycling at no great pace on easy track. The real bonus was that the weather was very kind to us, which after the dreadful weather we had over the past few weeks was not guaranteed. 

We found our B&B without any difficulty, only a short distance from the route. It is a lovely spot and there is a pub within easy walking distance. All in all a good first day

The is the viaduct at Avoncliff. We past  couple of these, they are truly magnificent.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Morning Bunnies!

One of the many joys of our new home is the wildlife we share the area with. My cycle ride to the station takes me past fields and hedgerows and it is alive with all kinds of life.

One of my favourite areas to ride through is actually along the side of a housing estate, very near the station. Not only does it have a great riding surface, it also has a real mix of wildlife. But most importantly, it is the only part of my ride where I am likely to see rabbits. Whether they are more timid around the fields, or whether the edge of the housing estate is just a more hospitable location for them, I could not say.

Every morning, come rain or shine, there they are keeping the grass down alongside the cycle path. The younger ones are a bit more timid and tend to bounce off when they see this mad woman on her mint green bike, but the older ones happily sit there nibbling away. I like to think they are wishing me a good day as I say good morning to them (I did say I was mad!)

It is one of the joys of life.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

This seems so long ago

I was just looking through the photos on my phone, looking for a picture of a sunny day (remember those?) and came across this picture. I took it just before we moved to show the joy of packing and how much space you need to empty your cupboards.

It certainly does what I wanted,  but now,  looking at it out of context it all seems so long ago. All the stress leading up to the move is becoming a distant memory. Frankly that is just as well as there were a few, well more than a few, moments when I seriously doubted that it would actually happen. All best forgotten now.

Packing up your home, putting it in a van and unpacking it 50 miles away is a very strange sensation. Having all your familiar objects around you, but in a totally unfamiliar location feels slightly surreal. You start to question which bit of what you are seeing is wrong, knowing that something is. Don't get me wrong, we love our new home and have settled in very well and incredibly quickly, but there is still that slight sense of unease. There is also the regular questioning of whether it has actually happened and whether we really own the new house; it is so different from what we were used to. 

So, did it actually happen? Yes it did and we love that it did. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Well that was a surprise!

Before we moved from West London I was very used to seeing flocks of parakeets flying around, you just accepted this as one of the quirks of life there. Since moving to Oxfordshire I have become equally accepting of Red Kites. I am also enjoying spotting birds I have not seen for many years; Goldfinches, House Martins, Swallows and Yellow Wagtails for example.

It was a Yellow Wagtail I initially thought I saw as I cycled to the station this morning. There was just a flash of long yellowish tail flying across the path in front of me. I followed the path of its flight and realised I was wrong. This was no Wagtail. It was about the right length, but too plump and had an 'exotic' look about it, but I felt it was familiar in some way. Could it be a Parakeet slightly out of its usual realm? No, it was too small. Then I realised where I had seen it before. Some friends have Lovebirds and this is what it was!

I know all of this deduction happened in the space of about 30 seconds, but I am as certain as I can be that this is what I saw. How it found itself flying around Oxfordshire I can only imagine. My guess would be that it escaped from a home nearby. I just hope it finds a friend to keep it company as I think they need chums around them.

You just never know what you will see if you keep your eyes open.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

What happened to the weather?

Did I imagine that we had some extremely hot weather about three weeks ago? Where has it gone?

My regular commute now includes a 15 minute cycle ride from home to the station. It is a lovely ride, along a dedicated cycle path which runs along fields most of the way. In the sun it is the most perfect start or end to the working day. But last week it rained more often than not on each journey. Not so idyllic.

I accept that there have been periods of sunshine amongst the wet, but not many and not for long. This is July, we should be able to rely on some half decent weather. Looking at the forecast for the next few days doesn't give much hope either. It is more of the same, sunny intervals with scattered showers, some heavy. I say again, where has the good weather gone?

I have a whole summer wardrobe aimed at good weather and it is sitting, or rather hanging, in my cupboard laughing at me. If I have to wear a knitted top to work one more time between now and the end of July, I may scream. They are meant for April/May and late September,  not the middle of July.

Come on weather,  buck your ideas up!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Calm Down!

Since our move to the country the cats have been having a great time exploring their new surroundings. There are any number of new smells to investigate and places to visit. Fields are being explored and some of the local wildlife played with and sometimes brought home to be shown off. These little visitors do not always survive to tell the tale so there is a steady stream of small mammals to dispose of. Most recently the visitor was a rat and it was deposited in the Man's study for us to find.

I suppose the most important question about the little visitors is whether we are getting more or less than before the move. I think generally the rate is similar, but there is just more variety.

Our black panther has already found a new spot in which to pass the day. We have no idea where this is, but he clearly has somewhere. We will not see him all day and then he will turn up late in the evening, or sometimes in the small hours, desperate for affection and getting over excited. He will squeak to get our attention and purr very loudly, then lie down only to get up again a few seconds later. He pushes his paw under your hand to make you stroke him. This can go on for a good while.

When he is in this mood the trick seems to be to distract him to calm him down. Tonight it was the inside of a toilet roll and a light switch pull. But it worked and calm has been restored.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Garden progress and everything country

My blogging went very quiet for a long while again; this seems to be just how things go in my life. But this time I do have a bit of an excuse.

About a year ago we started thinking sbout making 'our move to the country'. We had both lived around West London all our lives, but have always talked about moving to the country. Originally the idea was to buy a small holding, then we realised just how much hard work that would involve, so I think that might have been why it took us so long to actually move.

But here we now are, settling in to our new home in Oxfordshire.

The house is laid out in a similar way to a Roman villa, with a formal garden in front and another area of garden to the side, perfect for turning into a fruit and vegetable garden.

The formal garden is pretty much how we want it already. We have removed a couple of shrubs the we really did not like and replaced them with some from the side garden. Other than increasing the ratio of grass to moss in the lawn, there is nothing we want to do now until we have seen it through a year.

The side garden is a different matter. That is due to have a greenhouse and a number of raised beds. We have put one small raised bed in for strawberries and planted raspberries and plumbs but the greenhouse we want has a long wait time, and through a local quirk, we need planning permission for it. We hope to have everything sorted out ready for next year.

So that is what is happening and I am hoping you will be able see the progress as it happens.